Thursday, October 7, 2010


“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father."
-Jesus of Nazareth

"Without a personal commitment to inward change, believers will be dominated, motivated, and manipulated by the cultural network of their society".
-Kenneth Boa (Conformed to His Image)

Have you ever wanted a new car? If you watch any tv, you may have come across the new 2011 Jetta commercial. It depicts a young man who sees a billboard for the new vehicle while at work in a hospital-doing his daily job of cleaning up after others and I don't mean janitorial work either. Anyway, he realizes he isn't able to get the new vehicle-he's short on cash. So the rest of the commercial shows him taking on other jobs in order to up his income and save money. At the end, he's back at the hospital and glances at the billboard and an addition is being put on the ad-the price...come to find out, he earned enough to purchase two!
Why did I mention this example or story? Because it illustrates exactly what it takes to be a Christian-it requires sacrifice! The young man in the commercial knew that in order to achieve his goal of owning this new vehicle he would need to work his tail off to earn enough money to buy it. Yet, interestingly enough, that isn't the kind of world we live in...we live in an instant gratification kind of world-where we demand results now. What he did illustrates discipline, patience, and sacrifice...and what's prevailant in today's society is anything but that. Sure, it sounds good, but it's not really lived out among everyone we run into on a day to day basis.
We live in a world that at times seem to either 'overemphasizes our role and minimizes God's role' or 'overemphasizes God's role and minimizes our role'-the two extremes leave us exhausted, confused, and irritable when it comes to living as we have been called to. Too often we are lost in can't have it both ways and there must be a balance.
So what's missing? An acknowledgement of dependence and lack of discipline. As already mentioned in the scripture above-Christ is a the 'true vine' and our ability to live Christ-like lives is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:19; 3:16; 5:18; Galatians 5:16-18; 25-26; John 6:57; 14:10). We also need to recognize that 'there is no growth in the Christian life apart from discipline and self-control' (1 Timothy 4:7). We don't become good at it overnight-it requires sacrifice and constant self-refinement. What it really requires is a choice and commitment to follow through.
You and I need to mature in our faith and that takes sacrifice and discipline. Kenneth Boa hits the nail on the head: 'without a personal commitment to inward change' we will forever be dominated by those around us who aren't as close or committed to growth, sacrifice, and discipline. The Apostle Paul calls us to train ourselves and to prepare.
The bottom line is that our thirst and hunger for wisdom, understanding and discernment comes at a price. And begs the question: are you willing to pay the price? If you truly yearn to know Him more intimately-it requires that you give up certain things...just like anything else in your life. If you want to improve a relationship-you work at it...even when you might not like it. Want better grades? Stop spending 6 hours on Facebook! Want a better relationship with him or her? Stop cheating or investing in things that really don't matter!
I leave you with this: if you wanted to play the piano, what would it require of you? If you didn't already know how to read music-that would be a good place to start, but it might also be a good idea to find someone who could teach you too-this will cost you more than just money. When our 'cravings' and goals aren't matched with a willingness to invest time, energy, and discipline to make it will never happen!


Holly said...

Wow, i think this is great honey bunches! I agree, if we dont make the time or commit ourselves to Christ, there will not be a relationship there. i think this is a great reminder of our priorities and where they are and where they should be. For example, i havent read any of your blogs in forever, i used to all the time, i really enjoy your blogs, i truely believe that God works through you with these blogs, they are amazing, so thank you for this reminder! love you!
Holly Ann

pitcher12k said...

Hmmm....You don't know this, but I'm going to let you in on something. Lately, I have been trying to put aside a set amount of time to spend time in prayer, God's Word, or a little bit of both. Two weeks ago in Bible study we decided to take a challenge to be faithful and persistent in prayer. Now I read your blog, which seems to give a very similar message, and I'm going to say that that is three strikes, and something is out. (Although I'm not sure what.)
Thank you for confirming the questions I have had about this, and I hope you continue to write your thoughts on stuff :)
However, I do not find that agreeing constantly is a way to move ahead, so I am going to ask you a question. How would one do the things you are encouraging here? Is it just a matter of praying and reading the Bible more? Is it a matter of getting involved in a church group? Volunteering? What were you thinking of as you wrote/read this?

Jeff said...

I would rather you not blindly take my word for it. I would rather you didn't agree with me and instead discern whether or not God has placed something in your heart concerning this series.
You mentioned a 'confirmation' of sorts concerning something you've been thinking about for a while. Perhaps God has already given you the answers you seek-you just haven't taken the time to fully explore it from deep within yourself.
I write because it's important to recognize that we sometimes do things just to do it-some of the many things we occupy our day with don't fulfill a thing, they lack purpose and they often lead us astray. Which in turn leaves us feeling empty, lost, and confused.
I personally feel it comes down to intentionality...are you going through the motions? Well, that isn't something anyone else can really tell you-only you can, I mean someone can tell you, but often when someone else points it out...we don't take it well, we find judgement in their words and end up ignoring the simple truth-that we've distracted ourselves to the point that we can no longer see truth and that we'd rather live a lie.
Again, sometimes the questions we have can only be answered by our own longing for truth-where we seek that truth is up to us. What we deem truth is up to us, but we can't make up our own facts and truths concerning our lives and our relationships-you either are committed or not, you're either intentionally about what you do and why you do it, or you don't-you may be going through the motions.
Anyway, I share and write because it's something I know I struggle with and I don't consider myself a 'good Christian'-in fact, Jesus didn't even call himself good (Mark 10:17-27).
I suggest a book: 'When Christians Get It Wrong' by Adam Hamilton. I hope my answer helped.